FREDERICTON — Rising floodwaters have forced the closure of at least 35 roads in New Brunswick, where the premier is urging residents to do what they can to protect their families and property.
"We won't hesitate to declare a state of emergency if public safety demands it," Blaine Higgs told a news conference Sunday in Fredericton, the community that appears to be dealing with the most challenges as the Saint John River keeps rising.
"I must stress that this is a very hazardous and difficult situation and we are certainly not out of the woods," Higgs said.
Heavy rain and a rapid snow-melt are being blamed for the flooding.
Provincial officials confirmed there had yet to be any mandatory evacuations, but some residents have voluntarily left their homes.
The extent of damage remains unclear, but officials confirmed Sunday there were some flooded basements in Fredericton, where up to 200 homes had been affected by the rising river.
The province's Public Safety Department said residents in other communities along the river should remain on high alert in the coming days.
The department said the Saint John River Basin is now beyond or nearly at flood stage in Clair, Saint-Hilaire and Edmundston in the north, and in Fredericton, Maugerville, Jemseg and Sheffield-Lakeville Corner in the south.
"For residents who haven't yet been impacted, I would urge you not to be complacent," Higgs said. "Be informed about the risks and take preventative measures and consider voluntary evacuation."
The premier said the province will be seeking disaster assistance from the federal government.
"Rest assured, New Brunswickers won't be left to shoulder the burden of flood damage alone," he said.
Jasmin Boisvert, a water resources specialist with the provincial Environment Department, said water levels rose faster than expected in the Fredericton area after ice jams in the northern reaches of the river broke free, unleashing a surge of water.
He said flooding is expected in an area between Fredericton and Saint John for the next five days.
Residents have been warned to stay away from the river because the water is very cold, the current is strong and there is plenty of debris scattered among the ice chunks.
About 120 soldiers from Canadian Forces Base Gagetown in southern New Brunswick have been dispatched to help residents.
Lt.-Col. Sean French, commander of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment, said about 30 soldiers were dispatched to Maugerville, south of Fredericton, to help residents there fill sandbags. Other soldiers were conducting "wellness checks" to make sure no one was left stranded.
He said his soldiers helped with some evacuations, but he described those efforts as "minimal."
— By Michael MacDonald in Halifax
The Canadian Press